Copyright Term Directive

Directive 2006/116/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council (Copyright Term Directive)

Directive 2006/116/EC codifies and repeals 93/98/ECC harmonising the term of protection for copyright and certain related rights (those of performers, phonogram producers, film producers and broadcasting organisations). The term of protection of copyright for a literary or artistic work lasts for 70 years after the death of the author or of the last surviving author in the case of a joint authorship. If the work was produced anonymously or with the use of a pseudonym, the term of 70 year begins from the date on which the work was lawfully made available to the public. The term of protection provided by the direct represented an extension compared to the 50 years set by the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. The EU legislator justifies this choice in Recital 6:

“The minimum term of protection laid down by the Berne Convention, namely the life of the author and 50 years after his death, was intended to provide protection for the author and the first two generations of his descendants. The average lifespan in the Community has grown longer, to the point where this term is no longer sufficient to cover two generations”.

In addition, the directive seems to be restrictive towards the public domain providing that unpublished works in the public domain, once published, will received a copyright protection of 25 years and the publisher will benefit from a protection equivalent to the economic rights of the author.

As regards the related rights, the term of protection is set at 50 years after the date of performance for performers, of the fixation for phonogram and film producers, and of the first transmission for broadcaster organisations. The Copyright Term Directive also provides 70 years of protection for photographs, films and audiovisual works. In particular, for films and audiovisual works the copyright lasts for 70 years “after the death of the last of the following persons to survive, whether or not these persons are designated as co-authors: the principal director, the author of the screenplay, the author of the dialogue and the composer of music specifically created for use in the cinematographic or audiovisual work”.

Some areas are left to the competence of Members States such as the protection of moral rights and the possibility to protect (up to 30 years) critical and scientific publications of works which have come into the public domain. The directive applies to all existing and future works.

In 2009 the European Parliament passed a proposal to extend term protection of performances and phonograms to 70 years (initially 95). The proposed amendment got stuck in the Council of Minister where a blocking minority opposed the extension. Around April 2011 Denmark seems to have switched position, thereby determining the absence of the numbers for a blocking minority within the Council. The amending legislation was passed in September 2011.